Mixed champs add Bernard

Kurt Balderston's Sexsmith rink will have Cheryl Bernard as their new third at the Canadian Mixed...

Kurt Balderston's Sexsmith rink will have Cheryl Bernard as their new third at the Canadian Mixed Curling Championship this November. (Laura Pedersen/QMI Agency/Files)

TERRY FARRELL, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:00 AM ET

GRANDE PRAIRIE, ALTA. - There's been a shakeup within the Alberta mixed curling championship rink.

Kurt Balderston's Sexsmith rink will have a new third at the 2013 Canadian Mixed Curling Championship this November in Montreal — an Olympic silver medallist.

Calgary’s Cheryl Bernard, who won silver at the 2010 Winter Olympics, will join Balderston, Del Shaughnessy (second) and Stephanie Malekoff (lead) in Montreal.

Bernard replaces Desiree Owen, who is expecting her second child and will be taking the 2012-2013 season off.

“We got a call from Des at the beginning of May with some exciting news — overall it’s exciting, anyway,” Balderston said.

“We are all disappointed that she is going to have to miss the Canadian championships but we are all at a stage in life where family comes first so we were all very excited for Des and Sam (her husband).”

The team got together to discuss their options.

“We definitely took some time, Del and Steph and I and talked over the different possibilities,” Balderston said.

“We knew we could pick anyone within the Alberta boundaries and just the fact that we had beaten Cheryl in the provincial final, and the class she showed as she always does...”

For Calgary’s Bernard, the decision to join the Sexsmith rink was an easy one.

“I was pleased to be asked,” Bernard said.

“I like the maturity aspect of Kurt and Del and I. Calm, cool and we’ve seen most things. Steph is solid and she will be a sweeping machine.”

Bernard lost the Alberta final to the Balderston rink in heartbreaking fashion, losing the deciding game despite being up by two going home.

“It was pretty amazing to be asked after losing the final to them like we did,”

Bernard said. “But they are classy people, and I will do whatever they need to win.

“My sweeping skills may be suspect. I called Benny Hebert for some one-on-one lessons — not sure I’m holding out much hope.”

Balderston said landing Bernard as a replacement for Owen is one of the benefits of curling in Alberta.

“The downside of being in Alberta is trying to get out of Alberta. It’s so tough, but when a situation like this pops up you always have some of the best players in the world to choose from,” Balderston said. “I think Cheryl is probably at the top of the list in women’s curling, winning an Olympic silver medal three years ago and she has been one of the top players in Canada for the last 20 years, so....

“We are not going to replace Des, because of what she brings to the team. The four of us get along so great and we have had so much success over the past couple of years. But if we had to replace her, we couldn’t do better than Cheryl Bernard.”

For the Balderston rink, the 2013 Canadian Mixed Curling Championship is not just a chance at a national title, it’s a shot at redemption.

Balderston, Shaughnessy, Malekoff and Owen have been eager to atone for the happenings in the gold medal game in Sudbury, Ont., at the 2102 championship.

Leading 7-4 going into the ninth end, the Balderston rink had the title literally stolen from them. Jason Ackerman of Regina scored a deuce in nine, then stole one in 10 for the tie and stole another in the extra end for the victory. It was a loss that has weighed on the minds of all four members of the Sexsmith rink. The return to nationals was a chance to erase those memories.

In that regard, the timing for Owen is not ideal.

“We were very eager to get back to nationals. I was really looking forward to it,” Owen added. “But with the family situation, we have been trying for two years to get pregnant, so it is bittersweet. But, sometimes, you have to put curling aside.

“Family is more important.”


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